HL Deb 20 March 1984 vol 449 cc1101-2
Lord Newall

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they approve of the BBC linking with a Japanese whisky firm to open an English language school when the profits will benefit Japanese shareholders.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

Yes, my Lords. The school will help to spread the knowledge of English in Japan. It will be established without cost to the British taxpayer or licence holder, and will earn revenue for the BBC External Services. I am told that the arrangement is still subject to the formal approval of the BBC Board of Governors.

Lord Newall

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her very kind Answer. Would it not have been better to have a wider spread of British interests in this organisation in order to improve our balance of payments?

Baroness Young

My Lords, this is an arrangement which has been proposed between the BBC and the Japanese company. I am told that initially the BBC and a British publisher—the Cambridge University Press—will each supply 50 per cent. of the teaching materials, that they will receive income through sales, and that after a period of three years, irrespective of whether the company responsible for the school financially is making profit, a royalty on tuition fees will also be payable to the BBC.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the BBC will have control over the academic courses and will also appoint the teachers who will be recruited and appointed in this country? I think that this venture is to be generally welcomed.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am glad of the comments of the noble Lord, which I can confirm.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, if I should decide to learn the English language, would I be entitled to a supply of this Japanese whisky?

Baroness Young

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, did require to learn the English language then perhaps that might be necessary!

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the sale of a liquid made in Japan and masquerading as whisky is, in general, to be discouraged? Has the noble Baroness any knowledge of the BBC insisting that at least the Japanese clearly mark their bottles as not being Scotch whisky?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Lord has raised an important point, but I think it is rather wide of the Question. If the noble Lord would like to put down a Question on that subject, I will try to answer it.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, is it not the case that the Question displays a rather parochial attitude to the teaching of our language? Should we not congratulate the BBC on having brought off a successful deal?

Baroness Young

My Lords, it is true that for over 40 years of its existence English by radio and television has in fact built up a network of 79 selling agents in 48 countries. The relationship between the BBC and these agents is regulated by contract, and it has proved to be very valuable.

Lord Young of Dartington

My Lords, is the noble Baroness also aware that the BBC approached the British Council with a view to getting financial support, and it was only when that and other attempts failed that the BBC decided to go into partnership with the Japanese concern in order to extend British influence in the world? Is that not all to be very much welcomed?

Baroness Young

My Lords, as I indicated in my original reply, the Government do welcome this proposal.

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